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Johann Johannsson - Orphee / theguardian review

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There are two ways of telling a story," said Harrison Birtwistle, who was long preoccupied with the Orpheus myth. "One is to tell it because people don't know it and the other is to tell it like a child's story – to retell it." Icelandic film composer Jóhann Jóhannsson joins the grand tradition of composers (Monteverdi, Gluck, Birtwistle, Anaïs Mitchell) who have retold the legend of music's ability to charm monsters and gods – though for Jóhannsson the tale is about "change, mutability, death, rebirth".

It's his first official studio album in six years and it marks a move to Deutsche Grammophon's branch of ambient indie-classical grandeur. Jóhannsson's storytelling is stately and sombre. He does lush, spacious things with piano, organ, solo cello, string quartet, string orchestra, voices and crackling electronics, and the arrangements are sensitively done, though I can't say I found much compelling drama in it. A beautiful resolution comes at the end when Paul Hillier's Theatre of Voices sing a cappella text from Ovid's Metamorphoses.

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